Historic building transformation backed

TOWN councillors have backed moves to convert an historic Corn Exchange into a bar and restaurant at a cost of £450,000

TOWN councillors have backed moves to convert an historic Corn Exchange into a bar and restaurant at a cost of £450,000

But they said they were concerned the venue in Stowmarket should be a family restaurant rather than a pub.

Property developer Rob Cook, who is buying the building from the town council, has submitted a change of use application to Mid Suffolk District Council to turn it into licensed bar and restaurant.

Mr Cook, who is married to Sarah and ran the nearby Queen's Head pub for 10 years, wants to create an independent modern English restaurant which offers real ales and wines and has committed £250,000 to buy the property and £200,000 for refurbishment.

He is sensitive to the historic nature of the building in Church Walk which he plans to rename it The Old Exchange, creating a traditional venue to help regenerate the town that has several empty shops in prime retail spots.

On Wednesday night town councillors, meeting at their chambers in Milton Road South, voted to support the change.

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Duncan MacPherson, a town councillor who had campaigned to save the building for community use and wants to see the architecture of this historic building in the centre of town preserved, said: “English Heritage have now inspected the building and a decision is due by the end of August on whether to list it.

“A lot of councillors, including me, were concerned because originally we thought this was coming forward principally as a restaurant.

“We do not want another late night mainly drinking venue - we have a good supply of those. This is a change of use to a pub and restaurant and the proportion for each element is the real question and remains to be seen.

“We are losing control of a building of architectural importance so if it is to be redeveloped it must be run in a way sympathetic to the building and it would be better for the economy to have a family restaurant than a pub.”

Mayor Frank Whittle said he saw the building as part of the town's heritage and would have preferred a different use for the site, possibly creating a large indoor market.

The Corn Exchange has been used for storage by the Stowmarket and Operatic Dramatic Society after the town council was unable to re-develop it over many years for community use after a series of legal and building setbacks.

A spokeswoman for the district council said the pub and restaurant application is currently out to consultation before a decision is made.

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